We all know from our doctors how important it is for us to alleviate stress in any way we can; many of us rely on exercise as a way to spike endorphins and burn off the day’s tension. For seniors with mobility and cognitive issues, though, options like taking a long run or banging around the squash court are off the table. Luckily there are lots of creative options for seniors with mild impairment to alleviate tension and feel more relaxed. If you have a parent or loved one who falls into that category, here are some ideas to try:
- Build an aquarium: If Mom’s up for it, putting together a simple aquarium is a great project to consider. Selecting the container and fish is a fun activity in itself, and daily maintenance doesn’t have to be a big undertaking, if you choose the fish wisely. One it’s up and running, just the presence of the aquarium itself can act as a stress reliever; a recent study of aquariums placed in Alzheimer’s units indicated residents were calmer, more engaged, and had lower blood pressure levels.
- Polish, fold, shell: Simple tactile activities like polishing wood or silver until it gleams, folding laundry, or shelling peas can be quite therapeutic. Familiar tasks like these help seniors to focus and reduce stress, while achieving a sense of accomplishment that can relax and elevate mood.
- Knit, crochet, quilt: For those more on the creative side, crafting activities like knitting or quilting are centering and calming, and have the added benefit of resulting in something handmade to keep or give away!
- Aromatherapy: Scented oils, lotions, or candles can all help calm frayed nerves. Try using scents to make a guessing game, where Dad has to try and identify different aromas. Or give Mom a hand massage with lavender oil. If Mom or Dad is able, making a simple hand-stitched lavender pillow together is another great way to use calming scents to soothe and de-stress.
- Start a Zen garden: Gardening itself is a wonderful stress reliever, but of course it’s weather dependent. An indoor Zen garden is a manageable alternative that’s easy to work with and maintain. Zen gardens typically involve a small tray filled with sand, and come with pebbles and a small rake for design making. Creating simple shapes or just smoothing the sand can be very calming and centering. Zen gardens are also just pretty to look at!
- Create a relaxation space: Choose a room or an area with a window and arrange a comfortable chair, some books, maybe a fountain or a fish tank. Add a small coffee table and a puzzle, or some pretty books to leaf through. Having a dedicated space for alleviating stress is an effective way for Mom to make sure it actually happens!
- Install a bird feeder: If space permits, putting a bird feeder in Dad’s yard is another way for him to engage, relax, and calm down. Research which food attracts the local bird population, and have Dad track what varieties he sees each week.
- Play Name That Tune: Music can be a powerful tool to release endorphins, relax, and tap into happy memories. Play some tunes for Mom and ask her to tell you some of her favorite memories around them. Maybe see how well she knows her music trivia, and make up a simple game around a singer, band, song name, or composition year!
- Engage in Retail Therapy: Shopping doesn’t have to drain your bank account; a visit to a thrift shop or church bazaar can be a fun and relaxing way to find a few inexpensive treasures to keep or give away. A fun escape for an hour or so, especially if there’s an upcoming family occasion to shop for!
Do you have some ideas to share? Tell us in the comments!